Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Let's Discuss: Joz Trebu

Joz at the beginning of the series


Name of the real person/actor: Rodrigo G Diaz

The character in my book that looks like him:  Joz Trebu

Country Joz is from:  Teris

Whenever I find a new picture that fits what I pictured in my mind, I like to add the character that I 'see' in my mind's eye.  In this case, it is Joz Trebu - one of Talon's 'Elite' men.

Joz was the 'pretty' boy and often teased about his extra-good looks.

He was, however, very hot under the collar and ready to swing his fists first, often getting the turmoil going.


Joz in the islands
Once he is in the Barracks


At one point in the series, Joz and his friends, Dom and Zeal go to the Ammonite Islands.  He is very popular there.












The Barracks in Sogo require seven years.  In the end, only one will survive.  Joz is there - way out of his element, but at least he has his friends...or does he?




In the Barracks, freshly shaved







Joz at the celebratory banquet in Book 9












Siren Call: House of Cards Series, Book 4




Mates Laurentiu, cover artist, Hannah Bischoff, Typographer

The magick's world is failing. It’s up to Sarah and her friends to save it.

It took them two years to find the right combination of inks to restore Ari.
All they have to do is paint her card so Taps can release her. 
The problem is, they no longer have her card. 
Queen Piedee does and she’s about to burn it!

If they’re successful, they can move onto the simple stuff, like:
How to convince Queen Piedee to make Ransom a magick,
Find a cure for the werewolf virus,
How to restore Taps to her body,

You know...simple stuff like that

Fourth Corner: House of Cards Series, Book 5



Mates Laurentiu, cover artist, Hannah Bischoff, Typographer

The cards are stacked against Sarah and her friends.

In the battle at the Tapestry, thousands of Lurkers are attacking.
No one can be sure they'll survive.
People are dying and with them, magic.

Sarah had believed Taps would save them,
But Taps isn't on their side anymore.

The most powerful idolized Club ever has taken a new form.
Sarah thought the day couldn't get worse.
Until the Bone Lady showed up...





Trumped: House of Cards Series Book 6


Here it is, the final of the House of Cards Series.
  It was a sometimes difficult journey, but always rewarding.  
Dear Sarah and her friends have matured and I know 
they'll leave the world a better place.




Sarah's terrified.


It isn't because the enemy has tried to murder her three times.
It's about the people she loves.



If Sarah can't get to Taps, her mother dies.
Dee's about to, well...lay an egg.
The Bone Lady took Sal and Haberlie and she fears the worst.
Ransom hasn't found the castle yet, or he'd be here!
The castle is full of Taps-trained undead, 
and other never-before-seen-or-fought-monsters.



Her only ace-in-the-hole is Spoons, the former First Knight.
She's appemoed the dead warrior, but has no idea how long it will last.



America's magic is in its last hours.
If it fails, what then?







For more detailed information, sketches, scenes that didn't make the cut, and other extras about the characters in this series/world:  http://tapstapestry.blogspot.com/






















Tuesday, October 18, 2016

My First Novella: Thorn



My first novella - my 22nd publication.


Blurb:  


Lanta is ten when the guards of Dura come to take her away from her family.

She wouldn’t have minded that much if it weren’t for the fact she was going as a sacrifice.
Something lives inside the Xion Stump with the red X on its door.
Everyone says it's a monster, but no one’s ever seen it.
Today, for Lanta, the mystery will be unraveled.

For the first time in her life, she'd rather not know.  


ONLY 99 cents!!!

To purchase:  https://www.amazon.com/Thorn-Michelle-Erickson-ebook/dp/B01HKGX2MO


Slap Jack: House of Cards Book 3 and about Typography

Original Cover
Updated Cover




















      Here it is, my 21st book and 3rd I've co-written.  The problem with the third cover is education.
The  person that puts the title on the covers is a TYPOGRAPHER.  We made the decision to brand our series (a particular look in the title).  She did a great job.  It took some convincing, but we had her move the title to the top of this cover, though it isn't placed exactly where the other titles are.

This is something to consider when you are designing your book - where do you want the title and your name?  With us, it is a gamble.  Most of the time, it is up at the top.  However, with House of Cards, so far there are two at the top and four at the bottom due to design.  We can do that with ours because we are independent authors (Indies).  Don't count on that happening with regular printing companies.  In fact, once the manuscript is sold, you have little to no say.



BLURB:  

Sarah survived the first two weeks at the Tapestry!


Taps adopted her and she now has siblings that were also orphans.
She's becoming more confident using her magic.
Ransom is in love with her - she sees it in his eyes and feels it in his heart,
even if she's too young to do anything about it.



On the flip side:


Her bodyguard was murdered and it remains unsolved.
Taps is not only a cursed ghost, she and Sarah's brother are infected with a werewolf virus.
Sarah still isn't sure what Dee is, but glad she's nearly finished knitting her brain back together.



On the bright side of things, her friends are safe!


She thinks.
Maybe.
Hmm...is anyone safe in the magical world? Ever?


Shuffled: House of Cards Series, Book 2

Mates Laurentiu, cover artist, Hannah Bischoff, Typographer


Here is my 20th novel and the second I've co-authored.

BLURB:  

Sarah and her friends reached the Tapestry alive!

She’s not sure how long they’ll stay that way.

Life at the Tapestry isn’t as easy as Magicks think. 
Sal wants to run away, 
Sarah suspects Dee’s a lost mermaid.
School is life threatening.
Worst of all, her guardian is a ghost!
Oh, and the Lurker King is still on the hunt.

It’s been a tough first week.
But it has nothing on the second!


$2.99 to purchase:  https://www.amazon.com/Shuffled-Magic-Urban-Fantasy-Adventure-ebook/dp/B01A0AU7A2/


Thursday, June 4, 2015

My 19th Book! Huzzah!


Mates Laurentiu, cover artist, Hannah Bischoff, Typographer

What's different about this book compared to my others?  
It is my first Co-authored book.  
It has chapter heading illustrations
It's YA Urban Fantasy.
There are only three sequels planned.
.

Here's the link to purchase (currently $2.99):
http://www.amazon.com/Last-Alley-House-Cards-Book-ebook/dp/B00YUWRC5A

Here's the back cover - with the Reader's Favorite 5 Star Review emblem.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Educating Book Cover Artists

As an indie author, I want my covers to match the story I wrote.  Thankfully, as an Indie, I get to choose that artist.  The downside is that I have to do the homework or find someone in-the-know, to hire a competent artist to bring my vision to life.  

Keep in mind as you hire an artist, that the relationship should remain on a professional level.  This means your exchanges should focus on the art.

I've been blessed to work with three different book cover artists so far.

I've found that successful cover artists for me are

1) able to take constructive criticism (such as, 'That's good, but I need the light to be brighter,' etc.).
2) send regular updates via email. (so you can add or subtract details as needed)
3) speak and write English because it is the only language I speak.  So, this last one depends on your language skills.
4) finish the cover in a reasonable amount of time. Two or three weeks - if it's a complicated cover, a month at the most.

As an indie author, concept sketches and updates are critical because you are your own business.
If you've explained/drawn a quick sketch, it should suffice to get the free-lance artist started.

In the end, you should be happy with the result.

REMEMBER You need to be professional as well.  Don't keep the artist tied up while you try to decide if you want the character to have eyes or not - that is also unprofessional.

Professionals always do the job they are hired to do whether they agree with it or not.  Yes, you should allow your artist to make suggestions, but, the boss (that's you) always has the last word.

Remember, the artist should not dictate terms once they verbally (or contractually) accept a commission.  It is unethical.  Suggestions are welcome, but the employer is under no obligation to take them.  In the real world, when you begin to tell your employer what you will or won't do, it will get you fired.  As an Indie author, you do not need an artist that is a Prima Donna.









Saturday, April 4, 2015

New Cover for Traps by artist Mates Laurentiu


The time had come to choose which of the old covers we wanted to replace first.  Traps won the 'contest' hands-down.










The one on the right is what we replaced - no words are really necessary to convey why we chose to replace it - and yes, others will be replaced as soon as the funds come in.

In the meantime, the cover is all that changed for COS 5.  I haven't modified and combed through the old manuscript at this time to correct any other errors that may exist. Hopefully, there aren't too many.


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Let's Discuss: Soline


Her name(s):  Soline:  Keeper of the Waves, Sea Goddess, Sea Witch, "Sully" (though only one person dares to call her that).

Notable characteristics:  When she is out of the water, her living hair is blue.  When she is under the waves, it is dark brown.  Her eyes are supposed to be as green as apples and the irises float on the bottom of the eye like twin corks.  When she's angry or feeling strong emotion, they are stationary.

Tidbits you may not know:

In the original first-ever story draft, Soline and Ammon fought Revaya and Soline actually killed her.

My daughter came up with the idea of the Ancients.  She had written a story in high school about kick-butt female dragon riders and one of the characters in that story morphed into what years later became Soline.  She suggested I add the Ancients to the story line - the rest is history.

Soline above water
The picture on the left is the one I commissioned of Soline first - and is the 'older' Soline - a good thirteen millennia have passed between the one on the left and the one on the right.  The same artist did both.

Insane Water Mac?

I think losing her sanity was a close call.  There was every bit of a chance for her becoming as nutsy coo-coo ya-ya as Vael.  Those who have read the books know how she avoided total insanity.  Not that she didn't have moments after she left the Fortress....think flood.

I shuddered - often - as I wrote her. Curiously, I found her story so heart wrenching, I grew to respect her and understand her plight.  However, I still do not particularly like her.  In reality, I would steer clear of her like I would a ferocious rabid dog.

Motivation?

In a word?  Ever-changing.  She learned to tolerate her Sea Captain, automatically loved her children (but didn't know how to be a mother or grandmother).  There's also Jaydren, her first true love.  She even cares for a few people - Revaya and Ammon (though she'd never admit it).

Will she go back to Shara?

She has no intention of returning to Shara.  Ever.
Except...
Jaydren is determined to reclaim his father's estate - Stone's Fist and to right ancient wrongs. In the future book, Return to Shara, you'll have to ask yourself if Jaydren's unfathomable love is enough for their marriage to survive.


Music

Music amplifies emotion - whether heaven...or hell.  It's why I'm pretty careful about what I listen to and when I find something 'perfect' or even almost perfect, I like to use it for the emotion it draws out of me.

I look for lyrics and/or tunes that suit the characters/scenes.  This one will be Soline's song for Jaydren in Return to Shara because of the lesson she learned are in the lyrics.


Taylor Swift "This Love" lyrics

Clear blue water, high tide came and brought you in
(J arrived at the Fortress)
And I could go on and on, on and on, and I will (She has been waiting millennia to escape)
Skies grew darker, currents swept you out again (when she lost him to another)
And you were just gone and gone, gone and gone
In silent screams, (she never let those in the fortress use her emotions against her)
In wildest dreams 
I never dreamed of this 
(though in the free land, Jaydren is always out of her reach)

This love is good, this love is bad
This love is alive back from the dead
These hands had to let it go free
And this love came back to me

Tossing, turning, struggled through the night with someone new (Finn)
And I could go on and on, on and on
Lantern burning, flickered in my mind for only you (she never lost her love for Jaydren)
But you're still gone, gone, gone (he belongs to Maris)

Been losing grip,
Oh, sinking ships (the least of what she's done)
You showed up just in time (Jaydren returns to her life)

This love is good, this love is bad
This love is alive back from the dead
These hands had to let it go free
And this love came back to me

This love left a permanent mark
This love is glowing in the dark
These hands had to let it go free
And this love came back to me

This love, this love, this love, this love... [4x]

Your kiss, my cheek, I watched you leave 
Your smile, my ghost, I fell to my knees
When you're young you just run
But you come back to what you need (a truth she had to learn)

This love is good, this love is bad
This love is alive back from the dead
These hands had to let it go free
And this love came back to me

This love left a permanent mark
This love is glowing in the dark
These hands had to let it go free
And this love came back to me

This love, this love, this love, this love

Reviews: Take the best, leave the rest

Reviews are something authors and other artists have to live with.

With today's tech-savvy population, this gush of information (good and bad) is going to continue until we lose access to technology.  It could happen - apocalyptic-type scenarios are some of the best sellers.

Hey, I think it's smart to give reviews - good or bad.  I especially like the fact we educate/warn other consumers.  One of the things Amazon offers is for people to click on a button that claims your review has helped them.  I do this a lot when I want to buy something and someone has warned me about the defects whether mechanical or mental....smut or the fact a particular company always seems to have a problem counting to ten and only sends eight of a product.

On the other hand, there is something called 'trolling'  which means a person/persons with nothing better to do with their time finds something for sell that's doing well and gives a one star review - usually ranting about the negative aspects of a book/product they've never read/used. The reward for their behavior is to get a rise out of people and the attention that comes with it.




Don't feed their frenzy.  Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but trolls need to find a different hobby.

I write the best stories I can, but I don't expect every person on the planet to like them.  That would be unrealistic.  Some people will only read non-fiction.  Others only Sci-Fi or only books by LDS authors, etc.

I'm not perfect and my books are not perfect.  I write the stories I'd want to read and I do the best I can with the resources God has blessed me with.  Here's a fact you may not know.  At current editing rates, to get one of my (currently) 18 books professionally edited will take $1200+ that I don't have.  I've been spending the money I make on the same things regular people do:  bills.  Plus, I get the privilege of spending money on awesome covers - one of the biggest selling points of novels.  I seldom get reviews about my  typo-s or broken grammar rules, but every now and then someone better educated than I am, points things out. 

When someone finds a real problem with my work - I make changes (this does not apply to plot points or those who say please don't kill so-and-so, they are my favorite character).  I've made many changes over time - new covers, edits, corrections, etc.  If you read a lot, you will notice type-o's in traditionally published books, newspapers, and at school by teachers.

My advice:  Choose the higher road.  Use respect.  Always take the best of what you can learn in the reviews about your work and leave the trolls behind.  Seek improvement, yes, but don't beat yourself up over the fact you put the apostrophe in the wrong place.     


Monday, December 29, 2014

Lets Discuss: Ammon

Ammon is the star of the first book in the prequels, Five the Power Rising.

If I were to choose an actor today to play him, it would be Chris Hemsworth - only with auburn hair.

At the beginning of the book, Ammon is 27 thousand years old - young for Sharians.  In Shara, people have lived as long as a million years.

He is 8 feet tall - the tallest of his family.  If you've read the Chest of Souls main series, Tasut and Talon are some of his grandsons - which explains their great height, though neither achieved Ammon's full stature.


In this book, Ammon is the wayward son of the Master of Rozan Steading - and heir to the title. He is not known as the brightest apple in the bunch (he is one of 10 children Aaron and Sera had), but is known for following his 'gut' instinct and having a big heart - which is what is needed at Rozan Steading.

When you read of Shara, think of Australia as far as sheer size. Rozan Steading sits on the coast and stretches from north to south.  It's a lot of land to harvest and protect.  Their family home is grown, not built.

Good thing Ammon loves growing things.  He's in charge of enormous trees (think Redwoods/Sequoias) called Family Trees where the names of family are grown into the bark.

Unfortunately, he also enjoys brawling, which he was only too happy to teach to his siblings.  Frankly, he's good at it.

The people with 'talent' in this tale are called "Macshara" or "Macs" for short.  They are elemental (earth, wind, fire, water) and the main reason Ammon carries such a load of attitude.  If he had his way, he would eliminate them for what he perceives is insanity.

To add luster to the tale, Ammon's family has kept a secret about Ammon for millennia.  It is a gift from his golden-eyed mother and not a common one.  His father left out a few details before Ammon is forced to work at the Fortress in Brissa - like who their allies really are and what the enemy really wants and what they will do to get it.

You'll have to read the book to find out what those are.






Tuesday, November 4, 2014

New Cover for First Prequel: 5 Power Rising


Artist:  Mates Laurentiu
Length:  450 pages
Ebook:  http://www.amazon.com/Five-Power-Rising-Fantasy-Prequel-ebook/dp/B00DB65U8W
I've wanted to get a new cover for this book for quite some time.  The first cover just didn't do Ammon justice.  Once I had the final of the prequels finished, I realized the original cover wasn't the same format and figured Ammon should have his mug on the front cover.

The animal on his shoulder is called a Shee - this one is Spar, the first ever made (and proud of it!).

Cost:  $2.99 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Sequels to COS?

Fans asked (less than 24 hours after I released the final prequel to COS) if there will be more.

The short answer:  Stay Tuned.  

For a quick sum of what I'm doing go to the FB page:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Chest-of-Souls-Fantasy-Epic/270787772957868  If you want to follow, by all means, 'like' the page.  Go ahead and leave a comment.

For fans of the COS series, I plan to write the sequels in this sequence (Naturally, things could change):

1)  Sundara - Queen of the Ammonites
This is Wyn and Japh's story with all your favorite characters (who survived) from COS 1-9 AND the prequels.  Writing this book was a no-brainer.  I wanted to tie up the burning question:  What happened to the flaming blister known as Vael?  If you didn't know he was still alive, please re-read the series.

2) Sons of Thunder
Continuing where Sundara left off and setting up the rest of the books.  Two major characters are slated to die.

3) Return to Shara
The title is self-explanatory - the Ancients (minus Vael) will return to Shara to confront their past and take care of unfinished business.  

4) With Wings and Talon
This had to be written to fully explain harpies and how Revaya and Pax do among them.

5) Ties that Bind
The big wrap-up scene - probably.

6)  Someone suggested I write the pre-prequel about Utahna - sigh...I don't know if this should be done or not.

Yes, I have some of them planned and bits written down (about 67 pages of notes for the FIRST book), but try to be patient.  You never know what bits and pieces of other books may pop up and out, so as I mentioned above, Stay Tuned.


I am currently working on an urban fantasy with my oldest daughter called House of Cards.  To get a look at some of the characters and get a 'feel' for the series, go here:

The first book of HOC will be released (hopefully) next year (2015).   It is geared for YA and has been a real learning experience.  My family has always been involved in my books (since I eat/drink/sleep the worlds I create) but this has been the most fun I can have without being twins...and the hardest thing I've had to do.

There are four books planned, but the amount of information two of us can output is staggering, so it is likely to expand the way COS did.  Which means I will take at least a year off from writing COS.



Sunday, July 13, 2014

Up in Flames - Final COS prequel (5)



My 18th book and the final prequel to COS Fantasy.  


 From the first time he saw her, Vael wanted Revaya.
For twenty thousand years, she’s refused him.
To add insult to injury, she married a human, though that can’t last forever.
He knows their elements, his fire and her air combined, would be unbeatable. 
Everyone knows it, except Veya.
He’s tired of waiting and is implementing a new plan.
He will eliminate her distractions.
He murdered her friend and Teris is in ruins.
According to Mayhem, the next step is to remove her will and enslave her.
The plan is going to work, unless…



*Amazon eBook price:  $2.99 *


Artist:  Mates Laurentiu.   http://mateslaurentiu.deviantart.com/



*Note from the author*

Originally, Up in Flames was the ending of Book 4.  
When Winds of Change started to edge closer to 400 pages, I knew I had to make a decision.  
It was a hard one to make because I didn’t want to write this as a separate book.
Why, you ask?
Simple answer:  I don’t like Vael.   
Never have, never will (Go Ammon!) 
Climbing into his head wasn't fun.
With that said, I do feel sorry for him (yeah, yeah, I know…doing a Veya here). 
Also, I was informed the story wasn't finished or fair (drat Jaydren and his 'fair' ideology!) 
At least, the story wasn't finished until the obsessed flicker was doused (Thanks for trying, Soline). 

So, you will have to  Stay Tuned  to hear the rest of the story.  
In case you  missed it, this is a big hint.

ABOUT THE COVER:
Note the constellation, 3 Sisters, in the background.
Though it's very subtle, there are also faces in the flames with a larger one off to the left.
To find out why, you can read the book.


**Here are two comic strips about the 5**  
The first you should probably wait to read until you finish Up in Flames or it might spoil some things for you.  
The second can be understood if you've at least read the first two books**
Links:




Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Winds of Change - Prequel 4 to Chest of Souls and my 17th book




Artist:  Mates Laurentiu:  http://mateslaurentiu.deviantart.com/

http://www.amazon.com/Winds-Change-Fantasy-Series-Prequel-ebook/dp/B00KQ71X08

Price:  $2.99


The lace of legend is becoming frayed and Revaya doesn't see it. 

For more than twenty thousand years, she has been the Lady of Ogdones. 

But a storm is brewing. 


Her best friend is being hunted by an assassin so fast even Veya has a hard time seeing her. 
Strange notes of warning are being left for her and the others, but who is writing them? 
Vael’s unwanted interest continues to be a thorn in her side. 

The Winds of Change are howling and no one is listening. 

The distractions keep piling up. 
Even among the Five, love is the most powerful distraction of all. 




Friday, May 30, 2014

Let's Discuss: Mal Kayman





Sadly, I do not know who this man is.  All I  know is that when I saw him, I knew I had found Mal.

In the Chest of Souls Epic Fantasy, Mal Kayman is  part-Valenese by birth.

From the time he was orphaned outside the Lost City, he has been trained to be a leader of men.  He gained personal training under General Monus and General Han, both legendary Generals of their day.

He has a personal vendetta against the monster that ate (yes, I said ate) his parents.  He has a hatred of slavery and slavers and would go out of his way to kill one.  He detests it to the point he plans on ridding the world of slavery - if he survives the blood-sport known as Cubes.

He has an accidental marriage to Anicette Boushear and isn't sure what to do with it.

This is not an easy thing to do when so many want you dead.

This character morphed from the early stages of writing into someone much more intense that what I thought he would be.  

He will be in the sequels.







Let's Discuss Brenna Tybar


 Brenna Tybar is the only child of Lyon Tybar and Marianna Ryn.  She is the One - the person prophesied about for many millennia - back when the Five were ruling the free land.

Brenna is three when the main story opens.  This is how I imagine her to look...except with blue eyes.

To be fair, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it won't really matter who I choose to represent the 'most beautiful' woman in the world, someone will say - NOT!

So, I please myself by choosing someone that I think is very beautiful and still has softness to her eyes.

Brenna would have more highlights in her hair from being in the sun, but this is the young Brenna who at 13 decided she would die if Talon didn't notice her - so she made a few changes her parents didn't approve of, but Talon did.


Talon and Brenna are childhood chums.  He considers her to be a pain since he is ordered to protect her.  It isn't easy since things happen around Brenna that never happen to anyone else.


When she looks like this, he finds his childhood chum has morphed.



Fast-forward a few years.  Brenna has powered the Chest of Souls.  Still beautiful, yes, but cold, hence the look you see below.   

Saturday, April 26, 2014

New Cover for Hallows Gate



In the mood for something I've written but you've read every book in the Chest of Souls series - twice?



Here's the new cover for my thirteenth book, Hallows Gate.  
Mates Laurentiu is the very talented (and diverse) artist for this cover.

Blurb:  New Years Eve changed Angelina's life
She got lost and fell in love a ghost.
Now she needs to save him by becoming his wife
Problem?
If she succeeds, she frees him, but loses him forever.
Love is more complicated than she thought...
And that doesn't include the elves.

Price:  2.99 

To purchase:  http://www.amazon.com/Hallows-Gate-Michelle-Erickson-ebook/dp/B0078TEC8W

Update (as of 2016)  

I am writing a series about the Stoddard Sisters (if you read this book you'll know why) so this will become the first 'Stoddard Sisters' book.  The second I'm planning is Kissing Gate with Victory Gate to follow...and Bridal Gate after that...and so on until I've exhausted what my mind wants to do with them.  The final of the series, whenever that is, will be Heavens Gate.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Tales from the Chest: Spinning the Wheel

Stera and Lety, Rube's stepsisters, are secondary characters and I didn't waste time explaining who trained them.  They played bit parts and though what they did was important, at the end, this scene didn't need to see the light of day - until today!  Enjoy:)


"They're still in bed."  Chal gave an evil grin.

"Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" Shanika asked, looking up at the ceiling where, above them, two unsuspecting girl's were still wrapped in sweet dreams.  That was about to change.

"Spin the wheel time!" Chal reached inside the silverware drawer.

The cook of the Ha-mah smiled indulgently.  "Don't forget to bring back my knifes!"

"Can I keep the cleaver?" Shanika asked, running her finger along the edge.  "My cook needs one."

"As long as you place an order with the blacksmith for another."

"Done!" Shanika put the cleaver in her apron pocket and followed Chal up the stairs.

The two lumps beneath the thin blankets weren't stirring, other than soft snores.

Shanika opened the window, gathered up the Stera, blanket and all, and dumped it outside, aiming (mostly) for the pile of laundry the girls were already supposed to be working on.

Chal followed her example.

The screaming got everyone's attention, but, as usual, one look at who had done it and they all went back to work.

"Do you think they broke something?" Shanika asked, looking a bit worried.

"Nah, it isn't that far.  The most that could happen is a sprain or two."

"Just so you know, Stera might have a concussion before the end of the day," Shanika said in a hard voice.  "And it won't be because I threw her out the window."

They made it outside just as the sisters scrambled out from under the pile of dirty laundry looking cross as two spoiled little brats could possibly be.

Chal walked up and shoved two fingers up Lety's nostrils and led her to a contraption known to the trainees as "the wheel."  She released Lety's nostrils and pointed at the wheel, which was lying on the ground.  "Lay down!"

Lety, with eyes streaming screamed, "NO!  You can't make me!  Mari said..."

Chal kicked the girl's feet out from under her and stepped on her neck.   "Shanika, they don't know how to fight!"

Her co-conspirator had Stera's arm up behind her back and was applying pressure, making the girl tiptoe over the ground at a fast pace until she stood in front of large planks.  "Get on."

The girl, after seeing that her sister was being strapped down, climbed onto the planks which had a series of pulleys, ropes, and chains that somehow were connected to the wheel.

"Listen to me, you Vael-brained wonders!" Shanika barked.  "You two were late getting out of bed, didn't help with morning dishes much less finished the wash.  So, you get no breakfast or lunch and you will  finish the wash as soon as you finish volunteering for eye-hand-coordination."

The girls looked at each other in question.

Chal clapped her hands together - four measured beats - and looked at Stera.  "Start walking to this rhythm.  If you stop your sister dies."

Stera's face bled of color and she began to walk in place while the planks moved up and down and she held onto two long poles that glided back and forth.

"You better go faster than that or your sister will never make a whole revolution and she'll suffocate," said Shanika with a disinterested tone.

"Got the knives ready!" Chal said with an eager grin.

The wheel which had been on the ground, was slowly rising as Stera tried to keep the beat that Chal had given her.  Her face was red with the effort and she was already sweating.

Shanika faced the wheel and Chal stood with her back to it.  "On four?"

"Yeah, and let's descend this time and then go on odds."

The women began to count... "Four...three...two..." a knife was thrown by the backwards-facing Chal.  It slammed into the wood near Lety's head.  The girl howled.

"Hey, Stera, you better keep the pace or your sister won't make another round."

Even as the women spoke, they were throwing knives back and forth, catching them by the handle, and changing places.  Other girls were now gathering around, no one saying a word, but all watching with keen interest.

"What are you looking at you freaks!" Stera yelled angrily, puffing as her sister, strapped to the wheel, screamed again as a knife missed her outstretched hand by inches.

A cleaver sprouted next to Stera's foot.   "Go FASTER!"  Shanika warned.  She turned to Chal, "I don't think weak-knees has the strength to make the wheel do one revolution.  Lety may suffocate."

"Let's see how much Stera loves her sister."

Both women, still throwing knives, watched as Stera strained, the blood vessels on the girl's forehead bulged and threatened to burst.

"I...I...CAN'T do it!" screamed Stera, falling to the ground and stretching one hand out toward the wheel as it sank toward the ground.  "NOOOOOOOO!"

Chal calmly looked at the group of girls.  "Volunteers?  No, not you Pidey, you broke your wrist yesterday. Mari wants you to wait a day...anyone else?'

The wheel had come to halt - upside down.  Lety's screams were faint, but definitely audible.

"LETY!"  screamed Stera, jumping off the non-moving planks and rushing to the wheel, trying to lift it.

"It's too heavy, silly," said the injured Pidey with a sniff.

"No one wants to help?" Chal asked.

"Will we get into trouble?"

"Who said that?" asked Shanika, looking disappointed.

All heads turned to a small brunette with a club foot.  All the girls backed away, leaving space around the girl.

Chal smiled.  "Not if you can take this knife away."  She displayed the weapon.

Before she could blink, the girl disappeared and reappeared - with the knife.

"Well done sister mine!"  Shanika crowed and she gave Chal a wink.

Shanika's sister worked the planks and Lety, covered with sweat reappeared - unconscious, but still breathing.  Stera, sobbing, pulled away the straps and then pulled her sister off the wheel.

Chal turned to Shanika with a smile.  "Mari is absolutely right."

"She always is," Chal agreed.  "But about what this time?"

Shanika retrieved her cleaver from the plank.  "This is no such thing as a permanently unmotivated person!"